Last week I started posting some impressions of our recent meeting. There are so many things that I didn’t even get to, that I am going to share some more Retreat Thoughts this week.
I want to be a little more specific about the subtleties involved with correcting our color belt forms, the Taeguk forms. As a color belt, a student at our school learns one Taeguk form per rank/ belt color. There are 8 in total- Heaven, Lake, Fire, Thunder, Wind, Water, Mountain and Earth. This is the order in which we learn them, and they become progressively more complicated as you progress in your training. You can check out Shinhokwan.com for details on these forms.
Before the Taeguk forms, as white belts, we learn Basic Form #1. The whole form is done in only one stance, the Front Stance. A new student also learns the Ready Stance and Ready Motion which begin and end Basic Form #1, the Taeguk Forms and other forms in our art. In addition to this a student must know Lower Block and Front Punch to complete Basic Form #1. It traces a capital I on the ground- remembering exactly where to go during the form including the turning motions may be the hardest part of learning the form. All of these things seem complicated at first, are learned and become second nature- then a new form is introduced at the next level- the new form has elements of the old, with some new motions, stances and turns added. Eventually we know multiple forms and can perform them without thinking about what we are doing.
To make sure we are all doing our forms correctly, at our meeting we went over the first 4 Taeguk forms. Though we have all been practicing these same forms for many years, it was eye-opening to learn/ re-learn some of the detailed instructions about each form and each movement. Some examples:
Ready Stance. Ready Stance is standing with both feet placed evenly below the shoulders. Not as simple as it sounds- to make the feet point straight forward, generally it is best to think about pointing the second toe ahead, rather than the big toe. And the outside edge of a foot should be exactly even with the outside edge of the shoulder above it, as if you were being squished in a sideways trash compactor, like in Star Wars, right? A working knowledge of Star Wars is helpful to the pursuit of martial arts- at least in my school.
Body Blocks- A body block, including Reverse Knifehand, Inside-Outside or Hammerfist Block, should find your elbow at 90 degrees (a strike has a straight or almost straight elbow). The hard part for me, is having my hand end up in the right place- the top or your hand should be parallel to the top of the shoulder. These things are easier to think about than actually do during a form (as I found out when it was my turn to demonstrate).
Note- it was hard to find a picture of a person whose hand was not higher than his/ her shoulder!
This is only 2 examples, and every motion can be broken down similarly.
However, I want to also write at least a little bit about Dr. Kladstrup’s visit to our meeting.
Besides fixing my neck, which was more of an afterthought, Dr. Kladstrup came to talk with us as a guest lecturer. I like to think of his lectures, or question-and-answer sessions as we were priviledged to have this time, as an exercise in opening up the mind to what is possible in this world. Dr. Kladstrup is a chiropractor, herbalist and practitioner of many modes of healing. In his practices he often uses forms of muscle testing. Muscle testing is a way to access things that a person’s body knows, such as what might be troubling it, that the person may not know he/ she knows; sometimes this is referred to as “subconscious” knowledge. I had a first-hand example of muscle testing as Dr. Kladstrup worked on my neck. One method of muscle testing is to have a person hold out an arm as strongly as possible. Then you can ask the person questions, and push on the arm- the ability of the person to continue to strongly hold the arm, answers the question.
My example- to determine which exact spots in my neck needed adjustment, Dr. Kladstrup had me hold up my left arm. He would put one hand on a vertebra in my neck and push on my arm with the other hand. It was easy for me to note that when he was touching a spot in my neck that needed adjustment my left arm would not be able to hold up against his pushing it, while parts of my spine that did not need to be adjusted indicated this by allowing my arm to remain strong.
I have noticed a further manifestation of this phenomenon by accident in every day life. When I am doing my every day activities, sometimes I will think a thought of something that is bothering me. At this moment I have noticed that I often become affected by the thought, for example this is when I might drop something that I am holding. In conclusion, thoughts are powerful! So a new method of muscle testing Dr. Kladstrup shared with us is to simply hold a finger and thumb together, and test how hard it is to break apart with the other hand. After many repetitions, Master Pearson’s example with cars on the road, “this car is white-” you may be able to use this test for many questions, the answer shown by how easy or hard it is for you to pull your fingers apart. I haven’t tried this yet- good thing I am writing about it, so I will remember to try it now.
I leave you with a picture of President Obama learning Taekwondo from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, from The Korea Times.
That reminds me, one other refinement we learned/ discussed is the position of the chambered (ready, not striking) hand. It should be pulled back next to the body with the thumb on top, upside-down from when it is punching (when punching it twists on impact, striking with the index and middle finger knuckles. The knuckles where the fingers meet the hand, not in the fingers.) When a person is first learning to punch this is not the most important component. Now we can work on making the top of the fist exactly flat, harder than it sounds!